The Trust Blog

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Government neglect made Martin Place homeless inevitable

Government neglect made Martin Place homeless inevitable

The tent city in Martin Place arose out of a perfect storm of events. Events which not only result in an inevitable rise in homelessness, but also tend to make us all feel more fearful of the future.

People are noticing a widening gap between the rich and the poor. They are wondering why a relative few receive increasingly huge salaries while their own pay packets remain stagnant in the face of rising costs of living. Rising house prices and rents leave many fearful that they are only one pay packet away from catastrophe.

A significant proportion of homelessness can be attributed to the housing crisis. With mortgage rates at record lows and many families being in debt, my guess is just a small increase in interest rates will add many more people to the list of homeless.

Seeing pictures of the tents in Martin Place must leave many people with a nagging feeling in the back of their minds: “This could be me”.

The face of homelessness is already changing. Up to 40% of all homeless people now are women, many with children, escaping domestic violence.

One bright spot amid this societal gloom is the public concern expressed over the plight of those genuine homeless in Martin Place. It shows that compassion for the underdog is alive and well, even amongst those whose economic circumstances are not a source of concern.

I know many wealthy people are very worried about the way they see society heading. They understand all the authorities can do is move homeless people on from one place to another. Like Moses looking for the promised land they shift from suburb to suburb and then back again. If it wasn’t so serious it would be farcical.

Nobody can deny the numbers of homeless people are increasing and there is an appalling lack of services available to them. Sadly, the reason seems to be that there is no money to be made out of affordable accommodation and effective provision of services to the most needy. Governments are reluctant to spend money where they should.

Homeless people face enormous personal issues. Many suffer physical disabilities, mental illness or are victims of violence. They need special help.

Government knows that providing a wrap-around suite of care services is the key to breaking the cycle of homelessness. When homeless people are given government housing together with support services like counselling and healthcare, 90% remain off the streets.

However, what governments tend to do is reluctantly drip feed funding to already under-resourced services. This inevitably leaves the homeless out in the cold where they get sick and begin a never-ending cycle of hospital admissions.

The average homeless person I see at my Exodus Foundation suffers up to four chronic illnesses many of which need special treatment. Sadly, the homeless often leave hospital without proper accommodation or treatment plans.

Homelessness is entirely a state government issue. They hold the purse strings to the health, social and housing solutions that are so desperately needed. So ultimately they are responsible for what has occurred at Martin Place. The homeless people there are indicative of a wider governmental malaise which leaves all of us feeling vulnerable and many wondering if in the future we could end up homeless too.

The homeless may well make NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, feel uncomfortable, but I suggest she ought to feel ashamed of her governments inaction.


  1. This is nothing more than a protest of the people who were kicked out and then offered other free accommodation from the sirrius house. This was all brought on by our little darling mayor Clover please no Moore, you are killing me!!!
    We all have to get out of bed every day and do something with our time. The majority of these people are bludgers and we have far too many of them in this wonderful place called Australia, as well my Grandfather would be turning in his grave to see the lack of people who don’t want to work compared to those who do. So please move them on and to all of you, “get a job, like we all have too”!!!!!

    • Hi Phil.
      I hear that you feel frustrated that you have to work & other people don’t – we all feel that sometimes. And yes, you’re right, there are some homeless people that simply don’t want to work. However, there are many that do but can’t due to many complex factors.

      It sounds like you must be blessed with enough good physical and mental health to front up to work every day. Suppose, that was suddenly taken away from you, along with all your support networks and you had nowhere to go and nobody gave a shit?

      Unfortunately it’s attitudes without compassion and empathy that actually exacerbate homelessness and everything that contributes to it (Mental Health, Chronic Illness, Domestic Violence, Addiction, etc).

      I sincerely hope you never experience the trauma of life as homeless person. But then again, it might be the only way you could possibly have a change in perspective.

      • My brother was homeless for many years, he suffers with schizophrenia and has since the age of 16, he is now 60 and 3 years ago he was given public housing accommodation, support services and has never looked back. He lives in his very tidy unit, manages his money very well and also feeds himself much better these days. Homeless people need support and maybe it would be a good idea for the NSW Govt to put some of the huge amounts of stamp duty fees into the public housing sector

      • Well said, and the old adage ,which I can’t remember word for word,but it goes something like this.”Never criticise a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.
        Rich people have lost the plot along with compassion.Money is more important than people and consumerism is at its peak=== we are surrounded by air heads,whose main concern is what Brand Name they will wear next.Please God help us to overcome this appalling time on earth so that those in need get the services they need to be housed, fed and healthy.and those in Government to open their hearts and the public purse.

    • Phil, may you never suffer as the homeless across this nation suffer. This is clearly a complex matter with no simplistic solution. May you be encouraged to learn about compassion and generosity of spirit, a good example being those who work with Bill Crews.

    • I work hard, I am paid well, I am privileged. I am privileged I can work, that I can breathe, that I am strong and fit and healthy and I am fortunate it has been that way for most of my life. But there have been times when I so easily could have been homeless, hopeless and destitute. It takes so so little to change the tide and you like me are very fortunate that you have have avoided this situation to date. There’s bludgers everywhere, not just on the street and there’s more than one way to hold your hand out to ask for something but maybe next time someone does you could think it could be you and there may be more to this person than someone looking for a free ride. Talk to them, listen to them and maybe they can take you on a journey to a reality you may be fortunate enough to have never seen.

  2. The lack of government planning to address homelessness with anything other than ‘move along’ enforcement and band aid funding to charitable institutions is the reason for growing homelessnes problem. A reasonable society recognises that there are alway people who need assistance, to get people back on their feet. Blaming the victims of homelessness reflects a lack of understanding of the reasons for poverty, isolation and homelessness. Government inaction creates long term problems and society pays for dearly over generations. I wish we had ways to hold our leaders to account for their shortsightedness and the resulting damage done to society.

  3. The access to support services for people with mental illness, prescription drug addiction, intellectual and or physical disability are sadly lacking in Sydney.It is very hard to get appointments, their lack of literacy skills can be a hindrance and the absence of family support are hurdles many people face.
    Imagine you are in a situation where you lose your business and family suddenly and the family home remains with your wife. You have no job,no money plus debts from the business and you have to rely on friends for support…depression sets in and you are prescribed medication , next you attempt suicide and end up in a psychiatric unit. After discharge what are your options? This is real , it is a scenario that recently happened in an affluent Sydney suburb…Marin Place sounds inviting. Look into some of the real stories behind the tent city and you may find compassion in your heart…….. yes there may be some bludgers but my guess is that there are some very sad tragic stories hidden behind the tent walls.

  4. Until we have governments that understand that the pursuit of endless growth is the problem rather than the solution, we will never achieve our quality of life goals. And in the meantime the planet, our life support system, is progressively trashed.

  5. Thank you Bill for a balanced but compassionate summary of the Martin Place situation, based on the direct experience of your foundation.

    I recognise the political element in the Martin Place occupation (not that there is anything wrong with that), but your blog looked beyond that to the real issues.

    I was chagrined to read the first comment from Phil but heartened by the sensible comments that followed.

  6. Hi Phil
    Your opinion cannot be evidence based. If you were prepared to meet and engage with homeless people and find out for yourself how their situation arose, I’m absolutely certain you would have a more informed and balanced opinion. You’d also be a happier person! Give Bill a ring – he (and the homeless) would love to hear from you.

  7. Our North Shore Premier NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is going to spend over $100m of taxpayers money to relocate the Power House Museum to Parramatta. For what benefit? Sell the existing site to developers! What a waste of our money of tax payers money! It could be used to provide increased funding towards affordable accommodation and other services needed for those who have fallen on tough times.

  8. The Government is going to spend $120m on this postal vote to allow or not allow gay marriage. This money would be better spent building homes for the homeless, just think, 240 homes could be built with this money. What a waste


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